ENTERING into their eighth month in power and with one summer season behind them, uncertainty is still rife among bar and club owners on the Orihuela Costa regarding their business licences for 2012.
During the summer months, most local bar managers and staff have tales to tell of visits from the police demanding that they stop their entertainment and turn off their sound systems because ‘someone’ had complained about the noise.
Meanwhile, other pubs, sometimes a neighbour with an adjoining wall, were allowed to continue blaring out music into the small hours of the morning.
When the Municipal power changed from Monica Lorente’s Conservative PP to the ruling coalition, who partly fought for votes on the platform of promises to sort out the problems and concerns of business owners on the Orihuela Costa, hopes were high that the playing field would be levelled for 2012.
With Easter less than three months away, the return of holidaymakers imminent and with that a need for live entertainment, bar owners had hoped that this matter would be well under way towards being sorted.
However, although a couple of meetings have been held with council officials, it seems that the Orihuela Costa is not one step forward in sorting out the mess.
What has come to light is the possibility that almost every pub, club and restaurant on the Orihuela Costa does not have the correct licences to operate as they are presently doing.
Although bar owners have been paying their taxes, their staff, their rent, their insurance and such, it’s alleged that the paperwork handed over to the new coalition is in an absolute shambles, so much so that the only way forward may be for each and every hostelry to resubmit their paperwork and start the entire proceedings from scratch.
That will necessitate staff in Orihuela to file the correct documents and for inspectors to physically visit each and every establishment to ensure that they meet the correct requirements for their licences, including health and safety, sanitation, sound proofing and in some cases, an installed noise meter.
Eight months on, a new group has formed in Cabo Roig of Traders and Residents to bring their case to Orihuela and demand some action.
And while meetings have been held with the town hall, as of mid-January neither the Mayor nor any of his representatives, have made one announcement regarding how they are going to tackle the problem.
Easter may come and go but bar owners do not want a repeat of last year, living in constant fear that the ‘old bill’ will come a knocking and demand that they turn of the music or face a large fine or/and a night in jail!
In Orihuela, the Councillor for Commerce has come directly out and said that the former PP Council of Monica Lorente was at fault for many years, for not issuing correct licenses, trading certificates or collecting business taxes, that runs into hundreds of thousands of euros leaving many businesses in a situation of possibly having to pay back-tax and fees, which they were not aware of.
Councillor for the Coast Bob Houliston is well aware of the problem and pushing his colleagues to take quick action on the matter.
However, with infighting and an internal power struggle also taking place within the coalition, it would seem that little has been achieved since he first brought up the issues back in November, when Houliston said: “A major problem, which emerged over the summer of 2011, was noise from establishments playing music. The complaints concerned noise levels and closing hours.”
The local police are caught in the middle he said, “needing to respond to complaints but not knowing clearly the license situation of the entertainment provider.
This is a serious problem, which will be tackled in the coming months. There has to be a clear and transparent system in which everyone knows their rights under the law and the system must provide a fair balance between the interests of establishment owners providing entertainment who need to earn money to survive and those living nearby who want peace and quiet.”
And while local police have no direction from their superiors as to who or what is legal and what is not, Valencia’s Ministry of the Interior just announced that disciplinary proceedings have been filed against 959 public establishments in the region, for license infractions during 2011, resulting in fines of between €600 and €300,000.
This is exactly the situation that business owners on the Orihuela Costa are trying to avoid.
By Keith Nicol